The sharing of breath
I'm up as soon as the Sun rises. I dress up with some caqui pants and a plain black tee, grab a hoodie and head over to the lounge. I try not to make much noise so I don't wake anybody, though I'm half expecting to see Sam on the couch already reading her book.
To my disappointment, she’s not there. But I spot her book on the table, and I grab it while I sit down on the couch and run my fingers through the cover.
I'm flicking through the pages, letting the smell of the paper dance in the room, when I notice the writing on the edges and the lines under the text. I look again, and stop at a page with what I guess is Sam’s handwriting on the margin.
The quote she marked says, ‘The thing is, when you lose someone, you realize you’ll eventually lose everyone.’ And in a neat handwriting in blue ink next to it I read a single word, ‘Dad’. Underneath, in a messier writing and black ink, it says, ‘Not me, never.’
Curiosity sparks up inside of me, and I look through the pages until I find another underlined quote. ‘You never find answers, just new and deeper questions,’ and next to it, I read, ‘Will I find any answers in NZ? Or only more questions?' This time, it’s written with a pencil.
This really makes me curious, what is she looking for? And more importantly… What if she's the one I'm looking for? I decide one more quote won't hurt, and I find one that really catches my eye straight away as there’s multiple drawings of spirals next to it. My heart stops for a moment as I read.
‘Spirals grow infinitely small the farther you follow them inwards, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.’
I read it again, and again. My heart is racing in my chest, and I've got this feeling like there's something I'm missing. I reach into my back pocket and grab the little piece of paper folded in it. I unfold it slowly, and I stare at the yellowish scrap of paper without really reading it. I don’t need to.
‘Succeed in the quest
and return to your keen.
Follow the spiral,
it's closer than it seems.’
Tired but feeling light as a feather and grateful as I’ve ever been, I sit down on the beach towel. Being up early and enjoying some yoga on the beach was definitely the best way to start my day. I put on my hoodie and hug my knees as the wind hits me and makes me tremble a little. The Sun is fully out now, and it seems like it will be a lovely day despite the cold.
I just sit here, enjoying the view of the sea, and secretly waiting. Waiting to see if he’ll remember, if he’ll come over to check on me. Em's words from last night still make my heart skip a beat when I think about it.
Why am I so excited about this guy being interested in me, anyways? I mean, I barely know him. We’ve barely talked… but there’s just something about him that makes me feel so compelled towards him. And what does being interested even mean? I’m only here for a few weeks, not like he’s going to be the man of my life.
The wind roars in my ears, and I pull the hood over my head. The minutes tick, my hands getting colder and colder. Why am I even here? This is silly, I feel like a school girl all over again. I take one last breath, and decide I better head back in to have a shower.
“Morena,” Tane says right behind my shoulder as I'm about to stand up.
Trying not to jump up, I half turn to face him. He's crouching behind me, and all of my resolution and my ‘I don’t care about this guy’ is carried away by the wind as I look at his plum lips and his seductively twisted smile.
“Morning,” I say as a shy smile spreads on my own lips before I can stop it. “What does that mean? Morena?”
“It means morning in Te Reo Maori,” he replies. “Mind if I sit with you for a while?” he asks.
“Not at all.”
I scoot over to make room for him, and Tane sits down so close that his arm is almost touching mine. We sit there in silence for a moment, both looking over to the sea.
“I think it’s going to be a lovely day,” he says, his eyes still on the horizon.
“I think you’re right,” I reply. “I’m looking forward to today’s drive and activities actually. Are you?”
He half turns, looking at me, and I can tell he’s surprised that I’m talking to him without him pushing me to. Surprised that I asked him a question. It’s a weird feeling, and makes me realise I was probably weirder than I intended to be by ignoring him before.
“I am,” he says as he smiles, his eyes still on mine. “I know you have a few activities planned for your days in Rotorua, what are you looking forward to the most?”
I think about it for a moment, chewing on the inside of my cheek as I debate what to say.
“I think the Maori village tour,” I declare after a minute, “I want to learn about the culture.”
“Do you really?” There’s a mischievous glint in his eyes, but it's mixed with something else that I can't quite point out.
“Yes, I think it’s… interesting.” I say as I look back out to the sea.
“I could teach you a thing or two if you want, it is my culture after all,” he says softly, and I feel him shifting closer to me.
I turn to face him, and the answer I was about to give him gets lost in my lips as he leans in, getting even closer. There's an intense look in his eyes as he tilts his head forward slightly, and I stop breathing. His eyes are still on mine, and he blinks once, slowly, and then his forehead touches mine, our noses touching too. The world around us seems to go quiet as I slowly release my breath. It’s like we’re the only ones left on Earth, and we are so close together that my eyes can’t see past the bubble of us. I can feel the warmth of his breath curling up around my face, the pine scented perfume filling up my nose.
I can’t help but look down at his lips, which are slightly parted, and I feel like my heart is about to jump out of my chest. There's no noises around, I can't even hear the waves rolling onto the shore anymore. I'm unable to move or think, as his eyes keep me rooted to the spot feeling utterly alive, and confused.
And then he pulls away, smiles, and the whole spell is broken. The sound of seagulls piercing the air and making me blink repeatedly.
I have no idea what just happened, and my mind feels like a ball of wet cotton being pulled apart piece by piece.
“That’s called hongi,” he says in a casual tone, but I think his breathing sounds a little uneven. “It’s a maori greeting,” he adds while I process what he’s talking about. He shakes his head slightly, and I wonder if he felt the same way I did.
“Oh,” I say, no more words managing to come out of my lips. I blink a few more times, the fog finally clearing from my brain a little. “Tell me more,” I say before I can make a fool of myself by saying the wrong thing. Keeping him talking seems like the best way to avoid that.
“You touch your noses together, and your foreheads too if you want. It represents the sharing of breath, and it’s a symbol of unity. It is said that’s how the Gods gave life to the first woman on Earth.”
“Oh… I know you have completely different Gods here than what I’ve heard from back at home…” I almost spill the beans and tell him that my father used to be really interested in their mythology, but how could I explain that without telling him my father was a Maori too? I’m not ready for that just yet. “So, it’s, emm,” I mumble as I try to think of another question, something else to say. Then I remember the necklace I saw during the bathroom incident, and I decide to change the subject a bit.
“I saw your necklace the other day,” I say, trying to make it sound like a question.
“Oh, my pounamu?” He reaches under his sweater and takes it out. “This shape is called Pikorua.” He says as he runs his finger through the double loop.
“What does it mean?” I ask curiously. I remember reading that all the different greenstones have different meanings depending on the shapes, but I never got around to reading the meaning of each of them.
“It can have various meanings,” he explains. “The joining of cultures, bonding or friendship for life, or even represent one’s own life path: the twists and turns of life itself.”
I want to reach over and trace my finger through the loop, so I ask the next question I can think of to keep myself busy with something else.
“Is your whole family Maori?” I ask.
“You could say so,” he replies with a little shrug. “My family is... complicated.”
“Why do you say that? I know you said you were trying to fix some family drama, that's why you’re traveling?”
He looks concerned, and it makes me want to take my words away.
“Sorry for prying,” I say quickly as I shake my hands between us.
“No, no, it’s okay,” he replies. “Let’s just say that my parents split up, and it was my fault, and some of my brothers weren’t too happy about it, and there’s been a lot of drama ever since.”
“Oh, I don’t know what that must feel like, but I'm sure it wasn't your fault,” I say trying to sound hopeful and positive.
“What about you?" He asks, clearly not wanting to talk about his family anymore. "Where’s your family from? What are they like?”
I bite the inside of my cheek. For some reason, I don’t seem to be able to talk out loud about my father, at least not yet. Emma and my mother are the only ones I’ve talked about him with. And what will he think about me anyways? I’m a half Maori that knows nothing about our culture… What if he rejects me for it? What if he thinks I don’t care enough about it?
"Well, my mum is argentinian, but her family was originally from Spain, and Italy… And… Emmm…"
"Breakfast is ready!” Emma’s voice reaches us from the house.
I stand up quickly and brush the sand off my butt, I've never been so happy to be interrupted.
Driving over to Rotorua in the afternoon, I find myself smiling as I remember the extraordinary day we’ve had so far. I drove us over to Hobbiton early in the morning, which took almost three hours. I had Sam as my co-pilot, and we sang during the whole trip.
Once we got there, I had the time of my life! Hobbiton is the movie set where some of the Lord of the rings scenes were recorded, and we got to walk around all the little houses where the hobbits are meant to live. Me and Sam were being really silly, running around and laughing out loud. The guide kept telling us off during the whole tour, for walking too slowly, for always being at the back of the group and for giggling too much, but it was amazing! We took pictures with every single prop we could reach, and I even managed to convince Sam to jump over a fence and get into an area we knew we weren’t allowed to while no one was looking, because I really wanted a picture with a fake pumpkin. I mean, it was a huge pumpkin.
Tane kept a little to himself, but he seemed to be chatting more with Sam, and they both seemed pretty happy, so I guess my conversation with Sam last night must have worked. They both looked more comfortable around each other, and it made me really happy for Sam.
I’m feeling pretty content as I sit in the back seat of the car once more. I can't help but go through the conversation I had with Tane in the morning, and I keep thinking about his pounamu and the meaning Tane told me it held. There must be something about it, because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that stone all day long. I reach for my own greenstone, and I hold it between my fingers as I wonder about the meaning the spiral might hold.
I don’t know why I haven’t looked it up yet. But it’s as if having a little puzzle, a little doubt about it, keeps me thinking about my father, and keeps me connected to him somehow. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but I just haven’t been able to convince myself to look it up.
I look down at the spiral and run my finger through it, in a movement that usually seems to sooth my spirit and calm my jumbled thoughts.
But this time, I find myself crawling on a pile of pine needles instead, the soil damp under my palms. I’m scrambling around between some bushes on my hands and knees. There’s branches all around, almost acting as shelter. I sit down, all of the sounds muffled around me. I lay my palm on the ground, feeling the loose dirt getting between my fingers. The vibrations of the ground run up my arm.
“Sam.” I hear a voice say.
There’s blood on my hand, and as I look at it, the blood pools around it and drains into the Earth. I can’t keep my eyes away from it. My chest hurts, my breathing getting hectic, my heart jumping in my chest.
I look up, and find the back of the carseat in front of me. My hand is wrapped around the pounamu so hard that my nails are digging into my palm. My heart is still racing, and I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead.
“Samantha Sky! Are you okay? I’m talking to you!” Emma doesn’t sound as much annoyed as she sounds mildly concerned as she glances at me through the rear view mirror.
“I’m okay, sorry,” I mumble. “What did you say?” I manage to ask.
I look to the left, and see that Tane is staring at me intensely, his lips pressed into a thin line. I try to smile at him, but he looks away before I manage to curl my lips up.
“We’re almost in Rotorua, I needed you to give us the address for our hostel.” Em says.
“Oh, sure,” I reply. I place the necklace back under my sweater and look for the address on my phone. I give it to Em, who puts it in the GPS with a little thanks. Tane is still looking to the front, glancing out the window as I look down at my palm.
There are four crescent moons carved against my skin around the red imprint of a spiral.